Cloud backup used to be largely a consumer application, designed to handle relatively small data sets. But now with technologies like deduplication, compression and changed block tracking, which reduce the amount of data that actually ‘walks the wire’ up to the cloud, it’s becoming viable for businesses.
PHD Virtual, which has built a rapidly growing business around protecting the virtual server environment, is now releasing the CloudHook option which enables users to automatically include the benefits of cloud storage in their data protection strategies.
PHD Virtual’s Virtual Backup Appliance (VBA) is a lightweight virtual machine (VM) that installs in a few minutes and provides complete virtual and physical server data protection without dedicated backup hardware, software or a complex integration project. Running on VMware, Citrix and soon Hyper-V it’s controlled from within the hypervisor providing fast VM backups and file- or application-level restores easily. It can also provide an “Instant Recovery” which enables users to start a VM directly from the backup data store. And, since it’s a VM, scaling involves simply deploying another VBA.
The VBA includes source-side deduplication and changed block tracking to reduce the amount of data handled and stored and supports concurrent backup and restore operations so that data recovery won’t impact the backup window. PHD Virtual Backup leverages parallel processing of multiple data streams as well, completing backup jobs 3-5 times faster than similar products. Two backup types are supported, the more traditional Full/Incremental mode and a Virtual Full mode, which has global deduplication and incremental forever processing.
PHD Virtual CloudHook is a module of version 6.2 which enables connectivity to a public cloud provider, currently supporting Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, Rackspace Cloud Files and providers using OpenStack/Swift. While some competitors have added “cloud support” they have done so by installing a separate appliance and writing to it as if it were local disk letting the gateway manage the cloud translation. This adds to cost and complexity by creating another silo of storage to be managed.
Instead, by simply enabling the CloudHook module with a license key, users can get backups into the cloud, there’s no complex gateway to install and configure as all connectivity is integrated directly into the PHD Virtual VBA.
With CloudHook, users can set their primary VBA to send backups directly to the cloud and eliminate local backup storage completely. Or, they can keep the existing VBA taking local backups and set up a second VBA to connect with the cloud, providing an off-site copy. This strategy easily eliminates the need for a separate ‘off-siting’ process, such as tapes and vaulting services or setting up a second piece of infrastructure in a remote office or hosting facility.
Using PHD Virtual Backup with the CloudHook option gives companies the ability to leverage the economics of cloud storage and eschew the cost and complexity of a secondary site. It also gives them the freedom and flexibility to choose their cloud provider. They’re not locked in to their backup application vendor’s cloud and can easily change cloud providers down the road. The net benefit of this flexibility is more cloud options and better cost containment.
Archive and Cloud DR Coming
In addition to backup, PHD Virtual’s CloudHook will soon offer an archiving feature which will replicate local backups from a local VBA to the cloud. This allows users to keep the most current backups onsite for fast restores, send the rest to the cloud for long term retention and remove them from the local VBA.
Also coming is a cloud DR feature which will enable users to recover VMs from cloud storage to a cloud hypervisor and then restart those VMs in the cloud. In addition to supporting much shorter RTOs (Recovery Time Objectives) the cloud hypervisor enables DR testing, something which is often neglected because of the effort involved with traditional disaster recovery plans.
According to PHD Virtual they’re seeing significant interest with SMBs or larger company departments that have a need to get backups off-site. These organizations typically have up to 5TB of primary data but no off-site process in place or don’t have a process they’re happy with (part of which can be attributed to a lack of DR testing). For many, the cloud offers a manageable, affordable strategy for getting backups off-site, as it addresses the problems with complexity and disruption, as well as cost.
Also, MSPs and Cloud Providers are interested in offering the backup, DR and archiving functionality that PHD Virtual CloudHook will provide. For them these features enrich their service offerings and help differentiate them from other channel members that sell cloud backup.
It’s true that data reduction, like deduplication and compression, and change-based techniques have helped to make the cloud a viable option for corporate backup operations. But unfortunately these technologies, which can reduce backup time and bandwidth usage for cloud backup solutions, don’t really help on the recovery side. When a restore is needed, the entire VM needs to be sent back over the Internet to the customer’s site. For many this means waiting while storage media or even an entire storage system is shipped from the cloud provider.
PHD Virtual’s backup solution includes a feature called “Rollback Recovery” that can address this shortcoming with most cloud restores. Similar to the way changed block tracking works for cloud backup solutions, this technology identifies the data blocks that are different between the requested recovery point and the current onsite copy of data. The result is a much smaller data set needed for recovery. This process and its impact on data recovery is the subject of the Storage Switzerland article “Cloud Backup Requires Intelligent Recovery”.
Storage Swiss Take
PHD Virtual’s VM-based backup appliance (VBA) brought high performance and flexibility to virtual backup and recovery, at an affordable cost. Rollback Recovery addressed the issue of restoring large data sets from the cloud, making PHD Virtual an ideal solution for companies that lack a reliable “off-siting” process for critical data. Now with CloudHook, they’re adding the ability to connect to several different public cloud providers, further improving flexibility and cost containment.
PHD Virtual is a client of Storage Switzerland